A "Horny" Blessing . . ?
This is a story that is hard to organize. Where to begin? It reaches back forty years from this writing and has never left my consciousness for long, but was brought into sharp focus just last week.
I was speaking to an old acquaintance named Lynette. When I last saw her she was a cute young thing, who eventually became an airline stewardess. We had not spoken in almost forty years. I had sent her Dad some recordings to cheer him up in his advanced stages of Parkinson's Disease. She just happened to be there when I called.
Like me, she had, as a kid, attended The Salvation Army's Central music Institute at Camp Lake, Wisconsin. In my time the greatest names in brass band and Christian music history were guest faculty there. I speak of such as Erik Leidzen, Eric Ball, Ray Steadman-Allen, Phil Catelinet, Dean Goffin and many more. However, Lynette did not recount any of these great musicians to me on the phone. The single event that jumped into her memory was a kid named Vic in 1965. The guest in 1965 was the redoubtable Bernard Adams, Bandmaster of The Salvation Army International Staff Band. But she did not recall that, she only remembered an event involving a 19 year old boy named Vic.
As it happens, Vic was and is a dear friend of mine. He played in a Salvation Army Corps band of which I was Bandmaster, The Northern Illinois Youth Band (which I also directed) and in The Chicago Staff Band of which I was principal euphonium.
That year as CMI just got started, I encountered Vic on one of the trails at camp. He seemed a bit downcast as I asked "How are you?" When I didn't get his usual upbeat and ebullient response, I said: "Perhaps you need to go to the altar" (meaning to "go forward" in church and be forgiven.) Now this is a most unusual response for me to have given to anyone, and especially to Vic, who was a most circumspect and righteous youth. I thought no more of it.
Vic was a pupil, really disciple, of the great Howard Chesham - arguably the greatest alto horn player in history. Howy was on the faculty at the camp. Vic had worked like a slave for months to be the best alto horn student at the camp. He had worked hard to save for a Salvation Army made alto horn, which was the best obtainable then and the model that Chesham used.
The first Sunday came and Colonel Adams preached on the real meaning of Salvation Army music, especially band music. That meaning was crystal clear in Colonel Adams' own ministry with the international Staff Band - "The Salvation message behind the words portrayed in the music." He made it clear that if our motivation was anything else, we were just playing hollow notes. Vic listened. Vic heard.
The week passed, not uneventfully. We in the Faculty Band played the new masterpiece by Ray Steadman-Allen, The Holy War, among many other things.
When the last Sunday arrived and we were in chapel, Vic was noticeably upset during the call for Salvation. One of the Officers, Ed Johnson, came to Vic and asked if he could help. Vic demurred.
Then, all of a sudden, Vic burst from his seat and bolted out of the chapel, causing quite a stir. He ran across camp to get his prized Salvation Army alto horn. He burst back into the chapel and ran down the isle to the Penitent Form where he laid his most prized possession on God's altar and gave it up to The Lord. He prayed to The Lord to take his horn and if he never played another note, that would be fine.
Well, Vic played many thousands more of great notes and to this day remains one of the most faith-filled Christians I have ever seen. He has had an authentic ministry over these long decades that has influenced many young people for God. I witnessed that event at camp and the consequent testimony of one of God's saints over these forty years and more.
That this simple act of consecration would be the single event recalled by another among us all those years ago, Lynette, should not surprise anyone. I know for a fact that Bernie Adams would be thrilled to be eclipsed by such an event, as would Leidzen, Ball, Goffin, Steadman-Allen, Catelinet and all the rest. It is what Salvation Army music is all about, and what CMI was all about.
Thank you Vic, God bless you!
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